Many veterinary professionals struggle with mental health issues and and have a high suicide risk. Our Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team knows you are concerned about the dedicated people who care for your pet, and we provide information about the factors contributing to this problem and how you can help.
The veterinary medical field attracts individuals who demonstrate a high level of compassion, empathy, and drive to care for pets. Most veterinary professionals find their work fulfilling and rewarding. However, when repeatedly exposed to traumatic situations, such as animal abuse, chronically sick pets, extremely painful pets, and euthanasia, veterinary professionals can experience compassion fatigue, which the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) defines as “a state of exhaustion and biologic, physiologic, and emotional dysfunction resulting from prolonged exposure to compassion stress.” As a result of bearing patients’ suffering, affected individuals commonly feel overwhelmed, but typically continue to practice self-sacrifice to provide the support and care their clients and patients need. Over time, a person’s ability to feel and care for others becomes eroded through overuse of their compassion skills. Compassion fatigue can cause psychologic and physical symptoms such as depression, apathy, tiredness, inability to experience joy, difficulty concentrating, chronic physical ailments, and recurring nightmares.
Many veterinary clinics are battling staffing shortages, which cause veterinary professionals to work long hours to ensure their patients get the care they need. In response to these shortages, many veterinary professionals experience burnout, a condition that results from unsuccessfully managing chronic workplace stress, and is characterized by exhaustion, negative feelings toward one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.
Student veterinary education debt is growing 4.5 times more quickly than new veterinary graduates’ income, with a debt-to-income ratio of about 2:1. Veterinarians’ education is the same length of time as physicians’ medical school education. However, veterinarians earn only a fraction of physicians’ income. Veterinary professionals enter the field because they adore animals, not to become wealthy, but they often feel daunted by having to repay such a large debt, which may take their entire career to pay fully.
Euthanizing pets is one of veterinary professionals’ most difficult responsibilities. Euthanasia often causes extreme distress for all the people involved, whether we have been treating a pet for a chronic illness, or we have to euthanize a trauma patient because they have a poor prognosis or their owner can’t afford their beloved companion’s treatment. Although humane euthanasia is necessary to prevent a pet’s suffering, being the person to end a pet’s life can be difficult to face, and can cause guilt and depression.
The pandemic pause had a negative impact on everyone’s mental health, including veterinary professionals. Veterinary health care providers continued to work because pets still needed care, and they faced long hours, less-than-ideal working conditions, and anxiety about virus exposure. Many individuals were so focused on caring for their patients and clients that they neglected to care for themselves properly. While conditions are normalizing, the effects remain.
Misplaced client anger
Veterinary care is expensive, and many pet owners find this extremely upsetting, especially if their pet is experiencing an emergency and they can’t afford their beloved companion’s treatment. However, verbally abusing veterinary team members is never appropriate, no matter the situation. In addition, social media bullying and slanderous online remarks are extremely harmful to our team’s mental health. Afterall, we devote our lives to caring for your pet.
You can help improve veterinary professionals’ mental health
Although some veterinary professionals’ responsibilities, such as providing humane euthanasia, will never be easy with which to cope, small gestures of kindness go a long way in brightening a workday. To help improve our veterinary team’s mental health, follow these tips:
- Practice patience — When scheduling your pet’s appointment, please understand that we are doing everything we can to see your beloved companion as soon as possible. Be patient and understanding when interacting with our staff.
- Schedule regular wellness visits — To help prevent a stressful emergency situation, keep your pet healthy by scheduling regular wellness care appointments, and call well in advance to ensure we can provide you with an appointment time that is convenient for you.
- Plan ahead — Start saving money in a pet care emergency fund or consider purchasing pet insurance to ensure you can cover your pet’s veterinary bills if they become ill or injured.
- Be respectful — We chose the veterinary profession because we adore pets. Recognize that we always have your pet’s best interest at heart. When you are at our clinic, always practice kindness and consideration.
- Post constructively — We appreciate client feedback, but social media bullying is not constructive. Please choose your words carefully when posting reviews about our practice, and avoid threatening and abusive language.
The veterinary medical profession is stressful and involves much more than playing with kittens and puppies all day. We are extremely grateful to have our wonderful clients’ support and consideration, and we assure you that we are devoted to providing your pets’ best possible care. Schedule your pet’s wellness exam with our Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team so we can help your pet avoid a health emergency.